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Britain votes to allow world's first 'three-parent' IVF babies

By just_dregalicious following x   2015 Feb 4, 11:59am 5,550 views   14 comments   watch   nsfw   quote     share    


http://news.yahoo.com/britain-votes-allow-worlds-first-three-parent-ivf-000416485.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/03/383491386/britain-set-to-vote-on-3-parent-baby-law-tuesday

I'm curious what the people on Patnet think of this. Because it involves, "DNA from 3 people", I would expect that this would creep a lot of people out? If so please comment. It's an area I happen to be an expert in and I think I can change/ease your mind. I won't be a jerk about it either.

1   curious2   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 12:11pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Good progress on the science, probably a good idea on the legislation.

Legitimate concerns regarding the legislation include the possibility of custody disputes, making sure the parties are informed in advance and proceed with the same expectations, etc. Legitimate concerns regarding the science include the "unknown unknowns," i.e. with any new technology there can be unpleasant surprises. The religious and speculative objections don't really add up to much.

Assuming the parties have the same expectations and recognize the possible risks, the technology and legislation should help in reducing the risk of known diseases. An irony in the field has been that there are two alternate evolutionary strategies: the faith healers reduce the incidence of congenital diseases by dying from them and thus not passing them along; but the Obamneycare strategy promotes them by turning chronic conditions into perennial revenue models, replete with lobbyists. The three-parent IVF model allows a scientific method to reduce the risk of congenital disease, resulting hopefully in better health at lower cost.

2   curious2   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 12:25pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

just_passing_through says

Would you consider the donor of a kidney to have a legitimate custody claim?

/snark

No, donors sign a consent form, and so far I haven't heard of them even requesting visitation rights. It would be interesting though: "Hi, I'd like to see my kidney!"

In the reproductive context, a related issue is child support. Governments try to minimize the risk of children becoming wards of the state, and the phrasing tends to emphasize the best interests of the child. I'd be curious to read the provisions in the legislation regarding financial obligations, if any; I presume somebody thought those through. Sperm donors are usually protected, provided they go through a licensed facility, but informal arrangements can result in disputes.

3   Dan8267   ignore (3)   2015 Feb 4, 12:36pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (1)   quote   flag        

just_passing_through says

Because it involves, "DNA from 3 people", I would expect that this would creep a lot of people out?

Only small minded buffoons would be creeped out by that. The fact is that everyone's DNA comes from a multitude of persons: four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.

What matters is what genes are being passed on. Can we filter out genetic defects and inherited diseases? Can we select for physical traits we want like hair and eye color? And can we do these things without harming our descendants like we've harmed dogs through excessive breeding for "cute" traits that are not good for the dog like flat faces? There are ethical considerations when applying genetic engineering to offspring, but the freedom to do so should be a human right.

By the way, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Soon we will have children born to two biological fathers who are married to each other and born to two biological mothers who are married to each other. And there will be humans with synthetic genes, created in laboratories, designed to accomplish certain goals like increasing metabolism to prevent obesity. And, yes, some people will use the technology to grow gills if the demand is enough to create a market for it.

The question then becomes exactly how much say do parents get in the genes of their offspring? Can a black couple choose to have a white baby so that the baby does better in the world? What about the couple who wants to have a blue baby? What about the couple who wants to strongly influence how religious their baby is, whether to be more or to be less religious, and does so by selecting genes appropriately?

We've been doing these things for half a billion years or more, just more crudely by choosing sexual partners. Now that the degree of power has increased, you can be assured that the state will start regulating it and placing restrictions on what you can do. The question is will those restrictions be in the best interest of the children or the state.

4   just_dregalicious   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 12:40pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Thanks Dan, you bring up a lot of the things that I hear people worry about. Much of which is already possible with current technology but pretty much all of it is irrelevant in this case as I'll explain soon.

5   curious2   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 12:41pm   ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Dan8267 says

What about the couple who wants to have a blue baby?

That reminds me - have you read about the blue people in Appalachia? A hematologist heard about them and eventually found some hidden away because they were considered a shameful sign of incest. It turned out, they had a recessive genetic trait that prevented their blood from turning red when oxygenated. He gave them a supplement, which made their blood change color normally, so I suppose they could choose whether to be white or blue. Great for 4th of July: one cousin gets sunburn, one stays pale, one turns blue!

6   lostand confused   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 1:22pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Hmm, interesting-I wonder if this means same sex folks can have kids in the future??

7   just_dregalicious   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 1:24pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Okay so I'll ramble on and apologize in advance for my poor communication skills. I'll start by saying that the media articles really screwed up worse; which is why I assume lots of people will freak out about "DNA!!" - not that you guys did.

The reason the idea of someone claiming custody after being a kidney donor sounds silly is because it is. The technology in this case is essentially the same. Basically the 3rd person is being a mitochondria donor and is not donating ANY of the 'human' genome.

When people speak of the human genome they mean the 23 chromosomes that make you - you. The autosomal chromosomes (self-chromosomes) which are within each of your cells. Furthermore these chromosomes are packed within the nucleus in the center of each cell ( egg yolk ). None of the DNA in the nucleus is being donated or edited or changed in any manner. This is why Dan's points are irrelevant. It can't directly affect IQ, hair color etc.

So to go a bit further with respect to the autosomal genome you have chromosomes 1-22 and the 23rd is a combination of X/Y. That is the human genome and why https://www.23andme.com/ is not 24andme.com.

There is technically another chromosome (24th) inside of you which is called M and is the genome that resides inside of your mitochondria. You can think of mitochondria as little bacteria-like invaders that live inside of your cells. Each cell has 1000 or so of them inside and their job is to produce the energy you need. Even within a single cell there is a range of variation among the mitochondrial genomes ( heteroplasmy ) so they are not only distinct from you but distinct from each other. Generally there is one type that is most common but if it's screwed up so are you. Additionally during sexual reproduction there is what is called a bottleneck so that only a small number of them squeeze through to the next generation. They also only come from the mom. Those from the father reside in the tail of the sperm which falls off and any that sneak in are generally tagged for destruction. So you get all of them from your mom only. With respect to your autosomal genome you get one from each parent.

On a macro level your body has organs like kidneys. On a micro level your cells have organelles like mitochondria. This IVF procedure is simply an organelle transplant and I'm pretty sure consent forms would be signed.

The theories of mitochondrial evolution are pretty cool They are small haploid ( one-copy ) genomes only 16.5K letters long. Your autosomal genome is 3 billion letter long ( or 6 billion if you count the contribution from both parents ) and are diploid ( two copies ). Mitochondria don't evolve very quickly which would be bad partly because they are so important and a short code - they need to stay how they are.

Here is a diagram that shows where the mito are. The big purple blob in the middle is the nucleus containing your autosomal genome:

http://www.nature.com/scitable/content/the-origin-of-mitochondria-and-chloroplasts-14747702

One theory I read about stated that when oxygen levels on earth rose ( which is poison to lots of small single celled life ) the mito found a better lower level environment within other single celled organisms and continued on in a symbiotic relationship.

At any rate, media tends to barf out scary stuff about genetics that are just plain misleading if not entirely wrong. It bugs me...

8   just_dregalicious   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 1:41pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Actually another cool thing about mito you may have already heard of: Humans almost died off at one point and we've traced our ancestry back to that point:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

They used mito genomes to do this. Each cell has only one autosomal genome and it's huge and degrades over time. It's easier to find small mito genomes which exist at a 1000 fold higher rate.

I worked on some forensics algorithms a couple of years ago and we on the team donated our DNA for our own experiments. I wrote two types of algorithms:

1. Identification by automsomal genome
2. Identification by mito genome

One of the guys in the lab looked like what most people would consider typical Mexican. I was able to peg him as Creek Indian using (1) and he wasn't surprised stating how his great grandmother (maternal line) used to make lots of chili rellenos type stews which isn't Mexican at all but derived from people who lived in what is now Texas. Creeks are South East U.S. But the really cool thing was that using (2) I was able to share with him that him (and maternal grandmother) had Icelandic mitochondria! His haplogroup is C1C7:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.21419/abstract

Others in our group could trace themselves to Asian royalty and cool stuff like that. Sadly, mine was the rarest haplotype and very little is known about it - except that it's thought to come from neanderthals but hasn't been fully explored yet. Lame. (I2’3) It is fun to use it to creep the older generation in my family about though.

9   EBGuy   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 2:05pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Nice thread jpt. I didn't realize there was an issue with mitochondrial diseases.

10   just_dregalicious   ignore (0)   2015 Feb 4, 2:11pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

EBGuy says

Nice thread jpt. I didn't realize there was an issue with mitochondrial diseases.

Thanks! Yes, there are but very little are known about them at this point.

11   Blurtman   ignore (1)   2015 Feb 4, 2:50pm   ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Human animal hybrids.


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